Monday, 27 May 2013

Self-image: The importance to take action where we can and to accept when we can't

I know this post is long winded but I hope those reading will manage to stick around to the end.
It's funny how people can be when it comes to looking at themselves and what they see.  It seems that people have the ability when looking at themselves in the mirror to focus in and fixate on the one thing or things about themselves that drives them crazy.  For some people its a specific feature, maybe their nose, or how their eyes are set or the way their ears stick out too much.  For others it can be the color tone of their skin, be it too fair or too dark, or if they have a lot of freckles.  One that seems to be the most common is how people view themselves with regards to their weight, it seems almost everyone wishes they either weighed a little more or a little less.  When it comes to self-image we seem to be able to stick the knife in, but also twist it better and more cruelly than any bully or mean-spirited person could ever accomplish.
So where is this coming from?  Well the other day I was finally getting around to putting together some photo albums of the girls first year.  As I was doing this I came across a picture of my wife and her sister up in Penticton pushing their strollers along the lake shore.  Now, not being in this picture didn't seem strange to me because there have been lots of times my wife has gone up to visit her family and I've stayed behind to do some extra meds and tune myself up.  What did seem strange was that I didn't recognize the third person walking with them.  It took some time until I suddenly realized that this stranger walking with my wife and my sister-in-law was in fact me.  I was dumbstruck, I couldn't believe how terrible I looked.  Now I know what lots of people are thinking, similar to a mirror, there are a lot of pictures that are taken of us that we look and go "No, I can't look like that" or "There's no way that shirt looks that bad" etc, etc, etc.  But that wasn't the case here, I honestly did not recognize my own self in this picture.  Now in fairness this picture was taken in month two of new born twins, I was exhausted and if I recall correctly began IV meds not too long after.  However, the cold hard truth is that the person in this picture did not look like a well person.  In fact, not trying to be too harsh, he looked like a skeleton draped in skin and little else.
In general, I'm someone who is probably more comfortable with my self image than most.  This probably stems from the same pragmatism that has been so invaluable when dealing with my CF. My appearance is what it is, better to accept it then to beat the hell out of myself.  I've got enough beating me up as it is :).  I can only imagine how hard it must be for the parents of children with CF as they watch their children deal with this condition, because the honest truth is that it is rarely a condition that is flattering to ones appearance.  I remember having a conversation a number of years ago with my friend Eva.  We were discussing who it's harder on when it comes to appearance and the impacts of CF, men or women.  I felt it had to be women as, in my opinion as unfair as it may be, it seems women are more often judged for their appearance then men.  Eva disagreed as she felt at least women have the ability to cover up their appearance with make-up and accessories.  It was just the typical sort of conversation we'd have as we always seemed to feel that there was some other person who had it tougher regardless of how bad our own situation was.  I only wish more kids with CF would be blessed with this type of outlook on life.
I guess the point of today's blog is a call to everyone to realize that you are not the only one dealing with self-image issues.  As the saying goes, to a man, or woman, every person on this planet has something they don't necessarily like about their appearance.  It's on us as individuals and realizing what of these are things we can actually do something about.  After that it's equally important to do one of two things, if there is nothing you can do about it, do your best to accept and not beat yourself up about it.  Or two, get off your ass and take action.  It's especially important for us as parents to do this so that we can try our best to instill this outlook on our children.  In March, I looked at the mirror and was embarrassed at the gaunt face looking back at me, I tipped the scales (or perhaps more accurately, maybe they tipped me) at 128 lbs.  Now 3 months later, I've put on over 25lbs and have been working out consistently with both cardio and weights.  I know that I'm not done, there's still work to be done, but I'm proud not only of what I've accomplished, but how I look too.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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